Joseph Llanes, AOL
How did the performance feel to you?
It was fun. I love sitting around and just singing.
Were there any of the songs that you either hadn't done yet that just felt amazing or were different than you expected them to be?
All the songs are in a different place for me. I feel closer to 'I Remember Me' right now. That, to me, is me telling my story. Or 'Angel,' it's so uplifting, so fun and again I'm still getting more used to it but we're getting to know each other.
It's been a few years between albums, so does this almost feel like a new beginning to you, musically?
I really do feel like a new artist again in every way. I feel like I'm discovering a new me and getting to know myself personally, image-wise and musically. And all of that together is a lot to take in for one person. I feel like you just wake up and you're like, "Where am I at right now? Where am I?" So I'm rediscovering myself as a whole.
In the writing of 'I Remember Me,' was there anything that surprised you that you rediscovered?
Sometimes I find it difficult to express [myself] and that's where it came from with 'I Remember Me,' it was the best way for me to be able to put myself out there as far as my emotions, my thoughts and where I feel like I am in life right now. Because a lot of people ask like, "How does she feel about this?" and they want to know what's in my head and that was the best way I could put it into words. So, again, that's another reason why the song is so close to me, it's like telling my story.
You worked with Alicia Keys on the record and R. Kelly Talk about some of the collaborators.
Well, as far as R. Kelly is concerned I hadn't met him until after I recorded the song and he channeled me. They told me stories like, "He channeled you, he went in his studio and he put up pictures and everything of you and he created this song," and it blew me away because when I was in the studio recording it I'm like, "Oh my god, this is so me vocally, things I would say and everything and I haven't even met him yet." And then with Alicia, it was amazing. One, we had worked together before with the film 'Secret Life of Bees' and being on the same label and stuff like that and under Clive [Davis] and everything so we've spent quite a bit of time around each other.
Then I had a talk with my manager and I was telling him, "When I come out with my next album I want it to be next-level. It's a sophomore album so it should be a step up from the freshman album." And I was giving him my ideas musically and then a month or so later, Alicia and I decided to meet up. Her and Swizz [Beatz] wanted to meet with us and everything that I had said to my manager, they said to us. And we were like, "Oh my god, this is exactly what we were looking for." And Alicia was saying, "We've been watching you and you've been such an inspiration and just your story and your voice." Having Alicia Keys saying these things to me blew me away. I must say I had my most favorite recording sessions in the studio with Ms. Keys by far, hands down. Every day when I was in the studio with Alicia I would be like, "Wow who would ever think Alicia Keys would give me my sound?" This is somebody I always looked up to and at one point I was singing her songs and now we're in the studio creating Jennifer Hudson's music and sound.
You've had an incredible amount of success. But when artists give you respect, that's something that can't be earned commercially.
I think that's part of the reason why I had such a good time in the studio with Alicia in our sessions is because I'm around people who are music and they are the music of our generation and music that I've always admired and somebody that I've always looked up to so I almost can't find the words to express to you what it meant to me to hear Alicia say, "Oh my god." I remember we were recording 'Everybody Needs Love,' and when I did the note at the end and she was just sitting there like, "Oh my god, wow how did you do that?" It's like, "Alicia Keys is tripping out over me singing?" So that meant that much more to me because it was coming from her. And then seeing myself through her like, "wow, so I can do what she's doing one day. Maybe someday I'll be producing that next artist." So I was able to learn from her even in the process of creating my album.
Talk about some of the things you've learned making this record.
To me what I'm always trying to do is learn. I feel like you can never know enough, you can never be good enough. So anytime -- especially when you get an opportunity to work with R. Kelly or Alicia Keys and Ryan Tedder and Clive Davis -- and all of these amazing people, even Harvey Mason my vocal producer, I just learn from them. Anything I can get I take it and I absorb it and then I see myself through that and it just helps me grow. I try to make sure that I'm watching every single thing and taking from it because that's how I grow. And then one day I could be producing and writing songs and maybe win some awards from that! (laughs)
Watch Jennifer Hudson's Live Sessions Performance of 'Where You At'
Who would be the one or two artists at this moment that Jennifer Hudson would love to produce?
You have to crawl before you walk. I'm a firm believer in that. Everything I know is like baby steps, one step at a time. So what I would do is practice on myself first. I would write something just to get that writer's credibility and that producer's credit as well and start with myself and then show people. Present the work and then maybe offer it to someone else, but I would start off with myself first.
Could we see the Jennifer Hudson written and self-produced album in the future?
Because I've learned from this album I do think that it's possible and then again that's what I saw in Alicia, through her in the studio. I have the potential to be able to do that because it was a learning experience. I like to take from my learning experience and grow from it and then end up in that place and say, "wow, look at me, now I'm doing it." Actually, on the Brooks and Dunn song, the country song that I did, 'Believe,' I put my big cousins in that background of the song and I got to produce their little background parts, so that was a baby step. That's what I mean; take little steps, not leaps and bounds. I don't want to bite off more than I can chew. I got to produce them and put them in the background of that, so that's the first step. Maybe the next album I'll get to do a whole song, write it and produce it.
The baby steps are there. You got to write some, you got to produce some.
Yeah, see last time I didn't get to do that on the first album. I'm in the music school and they're teaching me. So Ms. Keys is my first period class and R. Kelly is my second period teacher so it's like that and that's how I look at everything.
So who would be like the fifth and sixth period teachers? Who would be the people that you want to work with in the future?
Oh my god there's so many. I like Cee Lo; we've worked together before but I would love to work with him some more. Oh, Prince to write me a song. I love Prince.
As you mentioned you did a Brooks and Dunn song, how did you end up on that song?
I didn't even associate myself with the song when I was called to sing it for the Brooks and Dunn farewell concert. When they called I was like, "I don't really sing country." It was like pulling my name out of a hat to me and once I heard the song I was like, "Okay, I get it now." I fell in love with it instantly and I wanted it for my album because to me it's like country gospel. So we made it all-the-way gospel, in a way. I felt like it covered my church background, the spiritual background, because I always like to have an inspirational song on my album, then the country side. So it handled two genres in one and then the meaning of the song means so much to me because it's speaking of my journey and my story through somebody else in that song.
What have been some of the biggest things you've seen, the changes in opportunities or just the way that people look at you from the weight loss and new body image?
The reaction is like a whole new world with the new image. That's another reason I feel like a whole new person and [at] times ... I forget [about] my new image because my mind has not caught up with my physical yet. But everything is worlds-apart different and it's like being introduced to a whole new world in every single way you can imagine. What I mean is from being on the other side as a plus-size girl versus now you would never know what you're being discriminated against until you cross to the other side. So now being on this side -- people are different. There's a whole lot more opportunities, people are more friendly.
Talk about how being a parent has influenced your music on this one or how you think it will in the future.
At the end of the day you're always representing someone else. And I want to make sure that I am a good role model and a good parent for my child and even others that are watching. Or reflecting my family and those that are connected to me in the best light as possible, so I already have that mind frame of before I do anything I say, "What would my family say?" Or, "How would this look to my child?" So I already think and I've always thought like that so I think I got a head start (laughs). At least so I think. [But] I would say there is nothing that I've done in my past as far as my career that I don't feel like I couldn't show to my son. So as long as I keep that same path, and I don't plan on changing it, I think we'll be alright.